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Statement of Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle on Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Plan

October 10, 2018

Please let me begin by expressing my gratitude to the staff for all of their efforts in putting together the FY 2019 Operating Plan. In particular, I want to thank Mary Boyle, DeWane Ray, Monica Summit, George Borlase, Jay Hoffman, James Baker, and the Office of Financial Management. Distilling everything this agency does into a single document is not an easy task, and I truly appreciate all of the time, attention, and work across directorates that went into developing this year’s operating plan. I am proud of the job that was done by staff and even more proud of the course we have laid out for CPSC this fiscal year.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this hearing, we have just welcomed our fifth Commissioner. A new group of Commissioners, but one with the same mission of keeping consumers safe from unreasonable risks of injury or death. I reject any hint or suggestion that safety is in jeopardy because there is a new majority. We are still the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We still have the same responsibilities to carry out, the same laws and regulations to enforce. As with any change in any administration, it is reasonable to expect that there will be different ideas, approaches, and policies. How we accomplish things may change, but the goal of safety remains the same.

While we Commissioners may not always agree on policy or the approach to take, I believe we all share the same purpose – to keep consumers safe. We will have policy disagreements, but I hope that we will find ways to agree – and when we cannot, that in the words of my friend Commissioner Adler, “we can find ways to disagree without being disagreeable.” Safety is not and must not be a political issue. 

I think this Operating Plan is a case in point.  We did not agree on everything, but we found areas to compromise on, adding some fine points to staff’s already solid proposal. This ops plan is a robust and accurate portrayal of the work staff will conduct this fiscal year--work that truly enhances consumer safety.

This FY 2019 Operating plan reflects my priorities--the same priorities I’ve highlighted since I arrived at the Commission in July 2013.

I believe we are most effective in carrying out our safety mission when we focus on:

  1. identifying highest priority risks and emerging hazards;
  2. improving import surveillance;
  3. enhancing the Agency’s data capabilities;
  4. strengthening collaboration, education, and outreach.



I believe we carry out our mission effectively by ensuring that our resources are dedicated to the highest priority risks and that we focus on emerging technologies and how the application of such technologies could promote or harm safety.

With the advancement of new technologies and innovations, the consumer product landscape is changing. What types of products consumers want, how those products are powered, and where those products are purchased is evolving rapidly. It is therefore critical that CPSC remains highly engaged on issues related to the Internet of Things and connected products, lithium-ion batteries, and e-Commerce.

However, dedicating valuable resources with risk in mind does not mean just focusing on new products. It means working to solve longstanding issues as well. I am eager to see the fruits of staff’s labor on the issues of furniture tipovers and portable generators. These are highly complex, at times controversial issues that we will continue to vigorously address. Staff is doing significant work in both of these areas.  I am hopeful their efforts will result in safer standards, whether they be voluntary or mandatory. It is important to note that their work is necessary to inform either option.

An important determinant of risk is exposure, and I believe we need to do a better job of accounting for exposure as we evaluate risks and establish priorities.  Last year, our professional staff proposed an initiative, known as “NCARES,” to capture exposure information for a range of consumer products.  I supported the staff’s initiative in the 2018 Mid-Year request, but it did not win support from the then-existing majority.  Admittedly, the price tag was somewhat steep. I do not see how we can make intelligent, informed decisions without factoring exposure into our calculus.  I hope the new Commission will give this renewed consideration in due time.  This is a key reason I voted against Commissioner Kaye’s amendment.  As I said earlier, in principle, I support expanding the ATV annual report to include Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROVs).  I would like to hear from staff regarding whether it should be a joint or separate report. However, unless we are prepared to undertake the expense of an exposure study, I do not believe we can make a useful determination of the relative risk for these different vehicle classes.


Import Surveillance

One of the best ways to keep unsafe products out of consumers’ hands is to keep them from entering the U.S. marketplace altogether. It is important for CPSC to remain vigilant in monitoring the safety of imported products by nurturing our excellent working relationship with Customs and Border Patrol as well as making incremental improvements to our Import Surveillance program when.



CPSC is a data-driven agency and it is important that we continue to enhance our own data and technology to keep up with the changing times. In particular I am pleased to see us taking a critical look at to see what improvements may be necessary to make it more prominent, functional, and user-friendly.

In addition to assessing current systems like, we must continue working to expand the sources from which we receive data as well as the types of data we receive. It is also important to focus on improving our capabilities to analyze the data we receive so that it can be used to identify and assess emerging hazards, inform compliance decisions and voluntary standard work, and be utilized for rulemaking when appropriate. Scientific integrity, reliable data, and a sound process are paramount in all that we do to fulfill our mission of safety.  I am pleased to see these areas highlighted in the operating plan and consider them essential in accomplishing our mission.


Collaboration, Education, & Outreach

CPSC has jurisdiction of more than 15,000 types of consumer products. We are a small agency with a very big mission. It is unrealistic to think we can execute our mission effectively without collaborating with all stakeholders.  Engagement with manufacturers, retailers, consumer advocates, other government agencies, academia, and other stakeholders helps enhance consumer safety.

Education and outreach should be an important focal point of the agency. Increasing consumer awareness of potential hazards as well as publicizing safety solutions through information and education campaigns, such as our Pool Safely, Anchor It!, and Safe Sleep campaigns, will have a positive impact.

As we speak, Hurricane Michael is soon to make land fall. Across this agency and all across the nation CPSC staff is working aggressively with others to raise awareness about the dangers.

Education is not exclusive to consumers though. Part of our mission of safety should be better education of the regulated community on how to best comply with our rules and regulations.  If we can inform industry as to our interpretations of safety requirements, best practices, the importance of managing supply chains, and being engaged with CPSC, we can help design safety into products.

One key area that we continue to collaborate with stakeholders on is recall effectiveness, which is another long-standing, challenging issue. Our staff will continue to dedicate time and resources to find a more effective and efficient recall process that informs consumers of unsafe products.  There is, unfortunately, no quick fix to remedying this problem. It will take time, but this is a priority issue for me and the CPSC staff. 

The future of CPSC is bright. Our mission remains clear, and this Operating Plan reflects that.  The 2019 Operating Plan prioritizes the key areas of risk, emerging hazards, data, import surveillance, and standards development. It strives for regulatory excellence, strengthens our agency, and enhances consumer safety.

Thank you again to the staff for all of your work and to my fellow Commissioners for their support.

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